Every year at Christmas I buy a bunch of tins from the Dollar Store, grab a ton of stuff from the local grocery, and I spend an entire day in the kitchen baking. Sometimes the kids help out, other times they just wander past and grab as many cookies as they can get their hands on. Whether I’m baking solo or with a crowd, I always bake for at least one day before Christmas, and that one-day is what really kicks off the holiday around here.
Once everything is done and decorated, we load up the tins and we give most of them away. They go to everyone from people my husband works with to someone who wouldn’t get homemade baking for Christmas, and I find it’s a fun, easy way to spread Christmas cheer to everyone.
How do I pick the cookies I bake? That part is easy: I never stray from my top 5 Christmas cookie recipes, so those go first. If I still have time or I want to play around I might give another recipe a try, but the recipes below are my standing, top 5 favourite cookie recipes I bake every single Christmas.
Before you get started, here are a few cookie baking must-haves:
Hot Cocoa Cookies
I only started making these a few years ago after seeing them in a magazine somewhere. I’ve long lost the magazine, but this is one Christmas cookie recipe that’s not easy to forget. Photo and recipe from RachalRayMag.com
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter
7 3 1/2 ounce bars semisweet chocolate12 oz. chopped, 7.5 oz. cut into 1-inch squares and the rest for garnish
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (packed) light brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chopped chocolate, stirring frequently, over medium heat. Let cool for 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla at low speed until smooth, 2 minutes. Mix in the cooled chocolate mixture just until blended. Add the flour mixture in 2 batches, mixing on low speed until just combined. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour. (If making the dough a day ahead, let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before shaping.)
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven; preheat to 325 degrees . Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment. Using a tablespoon, scoop the dough and roll between your palms to form 1-inch balls. Arrange about 16 balls 2 inches apart on each cookie sheet, flattening slightly. Bake until the tops of the cookies crack, about 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, snip 8 marshmallows in half crosswise and stick 1 square of chocolate onto each of the cut sides.
Remove the cookie sheets from the oven; gently press a marshmallow half, chocolate side down, into each cookie. Bake until the marshmallows are just softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 5 minutes; grate the remaining chocolate over the hot cookies. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to the racks; let cool. Repeat the process with the remaining dough, marshmallows and chocolate. Bake each batch on a clean sheet of parchment.
Best Sugar Cookies
I’ve made these cookies for a long, long time, and my best advice is to use a stand mixer to mix them. The butter and sugar have to be almost whipped before you add the egg, and then I just dump everything else in and let it go for at least 5 minutes. The other trick is chilling them for the required amount of time. That’s what makes them so easy to roll out. Photo and recipe from Tasteofhome.com
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Wilton Royal Icing:
3 tablespoons Meringue Powder
4 cups (about 1 lb.) confectioners’ sugar
5 tablespoons warm water
For the cookies
In a large bowl, cream butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and extracts. Combine flour and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Chill 1-2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375°. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8-in. thickness. Cut with floured 2-1/2-in. cookie cutters. Place on greased baking sheets. Bake 7-9 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.
For frosting, in a small bowl, combine butter, sugar, vanilla and enough milk to achieve a spreading consistency. If desired, tint with food coloring. Frost cookies; decorate as desired. Yield: 6-7 dozen.
For the icing
NOTE: Keep all utensils completely grease-free for proper icing consistency.
* For stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water.
**When using large countertop mixer or for stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water.
Thinned Royal Icing: To thin for pouring, add 1 teaspoon water per cup of royal icing. Use grease-free spoon or spatula to stir slowly. Add 1/2 teaspoon water at a time until you reach proper consistency.
These are my husband’s favourites, and the first few times I tried them I had no idea why. They’re very basic, but once you get the right recipe, they are also melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Don’t forget the cinnamon: that’s the best part of Snickerdoodles. Photo and recipe from Foodnetwork.com
1⁄2 cup butter softened
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
1⁄3 cup brown sugar (I used light brown)
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1⁄2 cups flour
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars at high speed.
Add egg, vanilla, and beat until smooth.
In another bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar.
Pour dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mix well.
Preheat oven to 300° while you let dough rest 30-60 minutes in fridge.
In a small bowl combine topping.
Take about 2 1/2 tablespoons of dough and roll it into a ball.
Roll this dough in the cinnamon/sugar mixture and press onto greased cookie sheet.
Bake cookies 10-12 minutes. Any more and they could be overdone
Spicy Gingerbread Men
Not all Gingerbread men are created equal. Some come out of your oven like bricks, and the kids would rather play with them than eat them. But if you want a easy to eat Gingerbread man with a spicy kick, these are your cookie. They never fail and they are delicious. Photo and recipe from Allrecipes.com
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg yolk
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar until smooth. Stir in molasses and egg yolk. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg; blend into the molasses mixture until smooth. Cover, and chill for at least one hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until firm. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks. Frost or decorate when cool.
Big Soft Gingerbread Cookies
These never last more than a day or two because everyone eats them so quickly and they are the best cookie if you want to give away tins of your baking to friends and family. They stay soft for days. Photo and recipe from Allrecipes.com.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons white sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
Are you ready to bake up some holiday cookies? I definitely am, and I can’t wait to ply everyone I know with tins of cookies (so we don’t eat them all ourselves). If you have someone who loves to bake in your life, here are a few suggestions for holiday gifts:
A KitchenAid Stand Mixer is the gift that keeps on giving for years
The best cookies start with a great cookie sheet
A cookie press makes it easy to create cute cookies